Skip to main content

Long-term records, 1972-2007, undated


Scope and Contents

D'Harnoncourt retained documentation of certain subjects for periods extending beyond the date spans identified in Series I. This series adheres to that work process and consists of subseries for each of those subjects. The first subseries, "Barnes Foundation," chronicles PMA's working relationship with that neighboring institution and their weathering of years of litigation and publicity surrounding the management and relocation of the Barnes's world-renown collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and early Modern art. "Board of Trustee" files pertain primarily to the committee that selects nominees for election to the Board, to certain committees and as officers. General files primarily document Board meeting plans, orientation for new members, and snippets of general conversation between d'Harnoncourt and individual Board members. The next subseries, "Calder Museum," documents PMA's involvement, along with city, state, foundation officials and Calder family members, with plans to construct a museum along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway dedicated to that family's three generations of American sculptors. Had the project been realized, the monumental works of Alexander "Sandy" Calder, along with works by his father and grandfather, both of whose public commissions are well-known features to the Philadelphia landscape, would have been part of a museum-mile, in walking distance to the Rodin Museum, PMA, and by 2012 the Barnes Foundation's art gallery. Through correspondence, draft agreements, design plans and funding papers, this subseries chronicles a collaborative effort from its enthusiastic 1998 inception and 2001 selection of architect to its quiet abandonment in 2005. Also documented here are the series of temporary installations entitled "Calders on the Parkway." With funding from the Pew Charitable Trust, PMA organized two installations of outdoor works by "Sandy" Calder between 2002 and 2004. The series was cancelled once the museum project was abandoned.

While d'Harnoncourt's scholarship of the avant-garde artist Marcel Duchamp began in her earliest curatorial years at PMA, the files comprising the next subseries, eponymously titled, underscore the close relationship she developed as a museum director with the artist's widow and step-daughter. Most evident is how frequently the three consulted in order to insure the integrity of the artist's body of work, as the number of Duchampian scholars and their inquiries and exhibition loan requests continued to increase decades after the artist's death. The significant amount of memoranda between d'Harnoncourt and PMA's curatorial staff underscores the museum's continued interest in enhancing its collection of objects and other materials relating to Duchamp and his contemporaries. There is also documentation of the museum's continued scholarship and promotion of the artist, including a celebration of what would have been Duchamp's centennial birthday, and of his works in the museum's holdings, particularly the multi-media installation, "Etant donnés." When asked about defining moments in the museum's history, d'Harnoncourt often recalled the "reinstallation project," which is the subject of the fifth subseries. Completed in the mid-1990s, the nearly decade-long project brought about significant change in the way the museum presented its exceptional collection of European art to visitors. Approximately 55,000 square feet of exhibition space and thousands of objects were revisited, revised and reinterpreted. Comprised primarily of grant reports, contractor meeting minutes, visitor studies and correspondence with consultants, staff and funders, this subseries carefully documents the planning, execution and celebration of this major reinstallation, carried out in three phases.

Since d'Harnoncourt kept a separate group of files on the lectures and other talks she gave on behalf of the museum, that material has been processed here as the final subseries, "Remarks." Approximately 20 years of her words of welcome, instruction, thanks and praise are documented primarily through d'Harnoncourt's handwritten notes and occasional slide lists.


  • 1972-2007, undated

Conditions Governing Access

Except for the "Remarks" subseries, which is open to researchers in its entirety, all other subseries adhere to the 15-year period of closure described at the collection level. In addition, "Board of Trustee" files are permanently restricted in part. Because files are arranged by subject rather than date span, restriction dates are noted at the folder level.


18.5 linear feet

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English


Alphabetical, by title of subseries.


Repository Details

Part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Library and Archives Repository

Philadelphia Museum of Art
PO Box 7646
Philadelphia PA 19101-7646 United States